Howard trade completes stunning Lakers overhaul

Will Dwight Howard sign an extension with the Lakers? (Getty Images)

UPDATED 11:28 a.m.

In a stunning move that pushes Kobe Bryant ever closer to his sixth championship, the Lakers acquired All-Star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in a blockbuster, four-team trade Friday.

Yes, it's Showtime again in L.A.

The deal was agreed to on Thursday night and approved by the league office Friday, completing a remarkable transformation for the Lakers that pairs Bryant with the top center in the game and a point guard, Steve Nash, who is among the best of his generation. All of this while keeping power forward Pau Gasol.

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The deal put Howard's former team in full-on rebuilding mode in the wake of the franchise center's long awaited departure. The details:

-- Orlando sends Howard, Earl Clark and Chris Duhon to the Lakers and Jason Richardson to the 76ers.

-- L.A. sends Andrew Bynum to Philly, and Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, a conditional 2017 first-round pick and a conditional 2015 second-round pick to Orlando.

-- Denver sends Al Harrington and Arron Afflalo to Orlando with a 2013 second-round pick and a 2014 first-round pick (least favorable between Nuggets' and Knicks').

-- Philadelphia sends Andre Iguodala to Denver and Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a conditional first-round pick to Orlando. The Philly pick is lottery-protected in 2015 and '16, top-11 protected in '17 and top-8 protected in '18. If the Magic don't get the pick by '18, they get two second-round picks in '18 and '19 from the Sixers.

On paper, underwhelming for the Magic. But with Harrington expected to be bought out of his partially guaranteed contract next summer, the Magic are positioned to have more than $20 million in cap space in the summer of 2014 as a result of the deal.

While Orlando could've received better players had they dealt Howard to Brooklyn, or subsequently to Houston, it is clear that GM Rob Hennigan chose a ground-up rebuild -- with draft picks and cap space he will use -- over making other teams' pieces fit his vision for the post-Dwight era.

In another stroke of blockbuster trade brilliance, the Nuggets managed to acquire the third-best player in a multi-star trade, shed millions in future salary and preserve the $13 million trade exception acquired from the Wizards in the Nene trade. It was the Nuggets' impressive haul for Carmelo Anthony that set the bar for what the Magic wanted for Howard, and in the end, Denver was opportunistic enough to jump into the mix and better its fortunes even more.

The Lakers, meanwhile, will pay a hefty price for their five-week reinvention. Assuming Howard re-signs -- and based on an estimated $75 million luxury tax line in 2013-14, the first year of sky-rocketing tax rates under the new CBA -- the Lakers would owe a whopping $34.3 million in tax that season based on $92 million in committed guarantees to six players. That's $126 million for half a team.

As with most trades of this magnitude, it will take years to tally up the real winners and losers. But the winner in the short term is the Lakers, who have fortified Bryant's pursuit of a sixth title to tie the great Michael Jordan to a degree that was unimaginable only two months ago.

Gasol, who was part of a blockbuster attempt to acquire Chris Paul from New Orleans that was nixed by commissioner David Stern in December, was shuffled in and out of the Howard trade deck several times, league sources said. Ultimately, the Magic decided to move forward with the trade without getting back an All-Star caliber player.

The matter of long-term contracts for the two key components in the trade, Howard and Bynum, likely will wait. The Lakers have long believed that once Howard's path to Brooklyn was blocked -- as it was last month when the Magic turned down every conceivable trade scenario the Nets presented -- and Howard spent a year in Hollywood and immersed in a championship culture, he would welcome a long-term deal with the Lakers next summer. Staying in L.A. is the only way Howard could get a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million.

Bynum, 24, also has a contract that expires after the season. But the Sixers -- who go from having a weak front court to having almost inarguably the best center in the East -- were willing to take the same kind of chance with Bynum, who is from southern New Jersey.

So in the span of a little more than month, the Lakers turned the Lamar Odom trade exception and a bunch of possibly hideous draft picks into Steve Nash, and now they have Howard. In the slice of NBA history we currently inhabit, it would go down as the moment that finally ended Howard's nightmarish and awkward efforts to extricate himself from Orlando if it didn't make the Lakers so scary at the same time.

The Magic, who get a protected first-round pick from each of the other teams in the deal, would have a manageable buyout number for Harrington next summer; he has $3.6 million guaranteed in 2013-14 and $3.8 million in '14-'15.

Orlando was able to dump Richardson's three years and $18.6 million left, but was not able to unload Hedo Turkoglu under the framework agreed to Thursday night. Even with Afflalo's four years and $29.7 million remaining, the Magic have only about $20 million in committed salary for the 2014-15 season.

The Lakers' championship window -- with Bryant, anyway -- will long since be closed by then. But a lot can happen in three years. Just look at what happened for the Lakers over the past five weeks.

Showtime, indeed.

 
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